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Parvovirus in Dogs: Why it is Dangerous

Updated: Mar 28

What is Canine Parvovirus & how does it spread?

Parvo is a virus that can be potentially fatal to all dogs but is especially lethal to young puppies and unvaccinated dogs. It affects their gastrointestinal tracts and can be spread through direct contact between dogs, or indirect contact from infected areas like kennel surfaces, owners, and other dogs harboring the virus. It attacks and destroys young immune cells in the body, causing a drop in protective white blood cells, making it easier for infections to spread in the body. This results in the infected dog experiencing severe vomiting, diarrhea, and fluid loss.

Why do puppies get Parvo?

Puppies are more vulnerable to parvo due to their weak and developing immune systems. Puppies born to vaccinated mothers get maternal antibodies that usually protect them for up to 6 weeks. After that puppies need to get a series of 3 to 4 parvo vaccines every 2-4 weeks until they are 16 weeks old when they develop longer immunity to the disease

The breeds most susceptible to parvovirus are:

  • Rottweilers

  • Doberman Pinschers

  • American Staffordshire Terriers

  • English Springer Spaniels

  • German Shepard Dogs

  • Labrador Retrievers

What are the symptoms of parvo?

The clinical symptoms of parvo include:

  • Lethargy

  • Loss of appetite

  • Vomiting

  • Diarrhea

  • Dehydration

  • Abdominal pain

  • Bloating

  • Fever

  • Low Body temperature

Many of these symptoms could be related to another illness other than parvo, however, if you believe that your dog has contracted parvo, notify your veterinarian and their staff immediately so they can take the proper quarantine procedures upon arrival and while examining your pet. It's important to notify your veterinarian about your dog's vaccination status if they are experiencing any of these symptoms. In most cases, parvo is fairly easy to diagnose at a veterinary hospital. Your veterinarian may recommend parvo screening tests depending on the age and vaccination history of your pet.

Treating Parvo

The golden standard for parvo treatment is hospitalization on IV fluid therapy, antibiotics, and antiemetic therapy. About 80-90% of dogs treated this way will survive. Untreated dogs have high fatality rates of up to 90%. During treatment, they will offer supportive care for your pet that consists of combatting dehydration by replacing electrolytes, proteins, and fluid losses, controlling vomiting & diarrhea, and keeping the dog warm. Due to it being highly contagious, dogs diagnosed with parvo should be kept in isolation during recovery, Parvovirus is a potentially fatal disease if left untreated, which is why early recognition and treatment are key to increasing your puppy's survival chances. Recovery times can vary, but most puppies who survive the first 3 days make a full recovery.

Preventing Parvo

As stated above, puppies are the most susceptible to contracting parvo due to their weak immune systems, but it can be prevented through proper hygiene and vaccinations. Puppies will receive antibodies from their mother, (assuming they have been fully vaccinated), however, the protection delivered from this may wear off before the puppy's immune systems are strong enough to fight off infection.

Pet owners should also be cautious of where they take their dogs if they have not received the full vaccination series. Specifically, please do not take them to public places that risk the spread of parvo, such as dog parks or homes with unvaccinated pets. Make sure to keep them away from any canine feces or vomit that they encounter while outside or indoors if they are around other dogs.


If left untreated, Parvo can be a potentially fatal disease for your furry friend, however, with proper protection and treatment, your puppy can avoid contracting it. If you have more questions about Parvo, reference the articles below, or call us at 559-434-5470 for more info on the virus or to book an appointment today if you believe that your dog is exhibiting signs of parvo.



  1. American Kennel Club. What every puppy owner needs to know about parvo in puppies

  2. American Veterinary Medical Association. Canine Parvovirus

  3. Morris Animal Foundation. What dog owners need to know about Parvovirus

  4. Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine. Canine Parvovirus

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